Interfaith Initiatives being offered this month


I would like to share with you two excellent interfaith initiatives that will be coming up this month offered by our local Catholic-Jewish Commission and our Tri Faith Dialogue Group.

The first is an educational offering for our high school students that will be held on Tuesday evenings from 8:15-9:15 p.m., from Jan. 25 to May 17, at the Katz Jewish Community Center, 1301 Springdale Rd, Cherry Hill. This series of classes is titled “Children of Abraham: An Exploration of the Traditions of Judaism, Islam and Catholicism.” Local scholars will present and explore with local high school students from all three faith traditions a comprehensive overview of the history and major teachings of Judaism, Islam and Catholicism over a 15 session course of study.

Class sizes are limited and pre-registration is required. The fee is only $25 and scholarships are available if needed. A commitment to regular attendance is required. For more information or to register call 856-751-9500 ext. 1235.

Our three teachers, Dr. David Rabeeya, Dr. M. Rafey Habib and Gloria Mazziotti, will be exploring the following topics over the course of study: Basic Understanding of Judaism, Islam and Christianity, Three Faith Traditions—Their Similarities and Differences, Concept of God-Prophecy and People-hood, Group Diversities within the Three Faiths, Places of Worship and Spiritual Leadership, History of the Three Faith’s Development and Course Feedback and Accomplishments.

This in-depth study of the three main monotheistic religions is an excellent opportunity to learn and interact with youth from all three great faith traditions. We hope this educational opportunity for our young people will expand their understanding of other faith traditions and help them to discover the interconnectedness and differences of our faith traditions.

Another great opportunity for learning for people of all ages and religions is the showing of the film, “Irena Sendler: In the Name of Their Mothers.” This film tells the true story of a network of young Polish women, led by Irena Sendler, a Catholic social worker, who outfoxed the Nazis for five years during World War II and saved the lives of thousands of Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto.

This film will be shown on the United Nations Holocaust Commemoration Day, Thursday, Jan. 27, at 7 p.m. at the Katz Jewish Community Center, 1301 Springdale Road, Cherry Hill. Admission is $10 in advance and $12 at the door. It is cosponsored by the Catholic-Jewish Commission, the Jewish Community Relations Council, Camden County College’s Center for Civic Leadership and Responsibility and the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education.

This program is open to the entire community and we welcome members of all faiths to attend. For more information and early registration please call 856-751-9500 ext. 1117.

Irena Sendler for most of her life kept silent about her wartime efforts to save Jews. In the last long interviews she gave before she died, she revealed the truth about a daring conspiracy of women in occupied Poland, some barely out of their teens.

Irena was a 29-year old-social worker when the Nazis invaded Poland. When the city’s Jews were imprisoned inside the Warsaw ghetto without food and medicine, Irena and her friends smuggled in aid and began smuggling orphaned children out – hiding them in convents, orphanages and private homes. By 1943, they had managed to smuggle over 2,500 Jewish children to safety outside the ghetto. Over the next two years, they would care for them, disguise their identities and move them constantly to keep them from being discovered and killed by the Nazis.

In October of 1943, Irena Sendler was captured by the Gestapo, imprisoned and tortured for almost three months. When she refused to divulge anything about her co-workers or her organization, she was sentenced to death. She escaped on the day she was to be executed, when the Polish Underground bribed a German guard. With a new false identity, she continued with her work until the end of the war.

After the war, Soviet authorities who took over Poland silenced Irena Sendler and her companions because of their connection to the Polish Resistance. Many of the women endured Soviet prisons or were forced into exile. Finally, their stories long kept silent by the Communist regime in Poland are being told.

I do hope you will be able to take advantage of these two wonderful interfaith opportunities.

Father Joseph D. Wallace is coordinator, Ecumenical and Inter-religious Affairs, Diocese of Camden.